Teachers Gather to View Documentary

Excitement filled the room as teachers, paraprofessionals, principals and other certified staff of Topeka Public Schools gathered for a special professional development event at Topeka Performing Arts Center on August 7th..

The well-appointed TPAC set the stage for the main attraction of this year’s back-to-school PD: the premier of Paper Tigers, a documentary film by none other than James Redford. (You may have heard of his father, Robert.)
Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the struggling rural community of Walla Walla, WA, the film closely examines the inspiring promise of Trauma-Informed Communities-- a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Following six students over the course of a school year, viewers watch as Lincoln’s staff try a new approach to discipline: one based on understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension. Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest developmental science is showing: that just one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life.

"We are very excited to screen Paper Tigers to our staff during our back-to-school convocation,” says Dr. Julie Ford, Superintendent of Topeka Public Schools. “Our district has many children that have had Adverse Childhood Experiences which impact their school career and transition to adulthood. Our staff is eager to learn more about trauma-informed care and brain development in order to assist our children to become successful adults. This includes strategies for preventing and de-escalating problem behavior and learning more about ACEs."
Former principal of Lincoln High School, Jim Sporleder, was also on hand to give a post-screening talk on healing trauma in the school setting and will also lead a workshop for principals and guidance staff. Having over twenty years of experience as a teacher, Sporleder came to Lincoln in 2007. Under his leadership, the school gained national attention due to a dramatic decrease in out-of-school suspensions, increased graduation rates, and a higher number of students going on to post-secondary education. Since retiring, Sporleder has continued to work as a trauma-informed education consultant with Children’s Resilience Initiative, based in Walla Walla, and travels the country to present on the topic of trauma.

Steve Graner spoke to TPS staff, as well. Mr. Graner is currently serving as the Project Director for the Neurosequential Model in Education for the ChildTrauma Academy and is active withCTA in training teachers and school personnel in trauma-informed educational practice. Mr. Graner highlighted emerging concepts and practices of trauma-informed care and brain development in order to assist educators in understanding student behavior and performance.

It was a fun and educational morning for our staff at Topeka Performing Arts Center. We are honored to be able to provide our outstanding TPS team with such a great opportunity!

Special thanks to the sponsors of this event: Architect One, Bartlett and West, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Durham School Services, Eagle Auto Wash, Frito Lay, Hy Vee, Jimmy John's, Pepsi, Schmidt Vending, Schwerdt Design Group, The Burger Stand, Wendy's, and Westar Energy.

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